Headlight / Tail light refurb instructions

Here are some notes on how to refurb your headlights or tail lights.

Pre-requisites

  • Ensure that the lights have been washed and dried
  • Mask off all the area around the lights to avoid the sanding and polishing going on to the bodywork around the lights
  • Use sanding pads on a fast drill or polisher

Step-by-step

  1. Using a P800 sandpaper, use medium pressure and move side to side and up and down to remove the worst of the scratches. Periodically dust off the lens and the paper to ease the sanding. When finished, the lens should look a little milky. Check all the defects have been removed and then move on to the next stage.
  2. Next use a P1500 in the same manner, at the end, the lens should look more translucent but still a little milky.
  3. Move on to a P2000 and with a little water on the lens and pad continue in the same manner. Avoid the lens becoming dry. By the end the lens should look a  little cloudy.
  4. Next move on to a P3000 and again with a little water and the same movements. Avoid the lens becoming dry. By the end the lens should look more translucent.
  5. The final stage is to polish the lens until it is clear. Use a polishing pad and compound. Apply the compound to the pad and then dab it on to the lens before switching on the drill. This is to avoid compound being thrown all over. Add more compound as needed. Keep polishing until the lens is clear. Wipe down the lens periodically to check. If there are still defects, go back to the P3000 stage.

How to refurb tail lights with Toothpaste

Ok, now I have your attention. Did you really think I was going to go on about how you can get your lights back to looking brand new using only toothpaste from the bathroom? We all know that this will just not work, unless…. You use it brush your teeth before going out to refurb your lights properly.

It appears to be a common issue on the E39 Touring where the lights on the tailgate start to look faded and battered. They do the same thing on the E53 X5 as well I have noticed. The lights on the Saloon and on the side of the Tourer don’t seem to have the same issue and look sparkling.

Anyway, this has been bugging me for a while and I have looked around on Fleabay to see if I could get some replacement lights or lenses at the very least. Nada. Nothing. Just don’t seem to be able to find them. If anyone has a link to some, please do let me know.

I have watched numerous videos on YouTube on how to refurb your headlights, all the different methods that people use, all the different products, including toothpaste.

It just so happened that in my cellar I had some sponge pads that would fit in the drill and some Halfords compound. Surely this must be worth a try. I set about putting on the masking tape and had a go on one of the lights with the rubbing compound. This did make the lens more smooth to the touch but was no way going to make the lights sparkle as they should.

I have been weighing up getting the Maguires 1-step headlight restoration kit and I nearly bought the kit for this very job whilst at the BMW Festival the other week. The thing that stopped me was that Maguires were selling it at the show for around £23-24 and I knew I could get it at Halfords for £21 (the cheapskate Yorkshireman in me). I had also read that the Autoglym Headlight restoration kit was good to use.

When I got to Halfords both products were in stock, the Autoglym being more expensive at £24.99. As I generally like the Autoglym products I took a punt and paid the little bit extra.

The Maguires product just seems to be a wool pad with some compound and they now throw in a couple of sanding blocks for the harder parts. The Autoglym product comes with the drill attachment, various sanding pads, the sponge pad for polishing and the compound.

As it was a nice warm day I set straight to work. I have to admit that at first I didn’t think that was going to do too well but I persevered and after about 20-30 minutes on each light I was generally chuffed with the outcome. There is a visible difference and when I put the lights on you can actually see the light on now rather than just this foggy mess.

Conclusion

As you can see from these pictures, the results are quite good. This was only the first time I had tried to refurb any lights so I wasn’t expecting too much. I had had my headlights done a few months ago by a proper company and they looked awesome (£35 each lense in case you were wondering). The back lights I have done are not as good but I think if I had spent more time on them they would have come up as good as new. I think it would also have been easier if I had removed the lights from the car. I was desperate not to scratch the paintwork and I think I would have been rougher with the sanding if I had not to worry about this.

All in all, I am pretty chuffed with the results and would certainly recommend the Autoglym product.

Angel Eye LED

The first modification I made to the car after I bought it was to change the Angel Eyes to LED. The first ones I put in were the 3w cheap models from eBay. The first lot worked for about three or four months and then one went so I bought a second set. Again, these did not last long and so I started to mix and match to get two working lights. After I ran out of available bulbs I decided I needed to go brighter. The 3w just aren’t cutting it, you can hardly see them in the daylight.

I started to look around at what other people were using and had a chat with Stefan from E39 Zone whilst we were waiting at the motorway services for the convoy for the BMW Show at Santa Pod.

Some people have gone really fancy and fitted colour changing angel eyes which are controlled through a remote control device or from an app on a smart phone.  These are quite fancy and come in at around £58 upwards on eBay.

I decided I needed some bright white 40w LED. The search began.

In all fairness you can find 40w LED quite easily on eBay and I settled on a set which duly arrived a few days later.

In the pictures above, the 40w is the silver unit. The two black units were the ones I took out. These are the orange bulbs that came with the car when I bought it.

The silver bulbs have a slightly larger diameter to the previous LED that I had installed and I wasn’t sure the new ones would fit, they are also longer. They do in fact fit and they are so much brighter, especially in the dark.

I don’t think they come up to the brightness of the LED on the new BMW and other cars on the road that have the daylight running lights but they are pretty close.

The 40w bulbs come with a ballast each which means when fitting I taped the wires up as there was  a lot of lose cable now hanging around under the bonnet. I also didn’t want the ballast being battered around in there whilst I am driving.

Now to see how long these will last compared to the cheap 3w LED that I have used so far.

Regardless of how long they last, I don’t think I can ever go back to the 3w LED, not now I have seen the light. (see what I did there?)